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'Russian hookers on speed': Court filings shine light on bank banter

A trader from HSBC had some colourful advice for a contemporary from the Commonwealth Bank about how to tackle the alleged rate rigging by another bank.

“Anz will fk u on ratesets till yur [sic] blue int he [sic] face,” HSBC’s Carl Radford told Garfield ‘Bad Kitty’ Lee in chatroom transcripts released in fresh documents filed by the corporate regulator as part of its case alleging CBA rigged one of Australia’s key interest rates.

“They will deny but they will fk u liek [sic] you are being done by a Russian hooker on speed,” Mr Radford added.

The Federal Court filings from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission have again shone a light on the often bawdy and crude language used by the masters of the trading rooms of Australia’s largest bank.

ASIC alleges the CBA acted in an unconscionable manner when its traders rigged or attempted to rig the bank bill swap rate.

BBSW is a key rate at which banks lend to each other over short periods, and it provides a benchmark for the setting of a range of business loan interest rates.


New documents filed late on Wednesday reveal conversations among traders that ASIC alleges show bank staff were aware that the rate was susceptible to manipulation. Some of these exchanges show bank staff saying it is being manipulated or “touched up.”

In an email from September 25, 2008, at the height of the global financial crisis, CBA employee David Sietsma parodies the film A Few Good Men in an email to a part of CBA’s Treasury business known as Asset Liability Management (ALM).

“You can't handle the truth! … You weep for 6 month and you curse the banks that manipulate the rate set. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that the BBSW rate set, while tragic, is the best thing we’ve got. And ALM’s existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, protects profits…” Mr Sietsma wrote.

The court documents also quote an instant chat message exchange between CBA swaps dealer Grant Barnes and ANZ trader Jason Pritchard from November 3, 2009.

“I think BBSW will be in the mid 80s tomrow [sic],” Mr Pritchard wrote. “tell your boys not to fcuk [sic] the blanace [sic] sheet over there rammimg rate sets - I have a lot of shares in your bank.”

Mr Barnes replied: “you're not the only one that got slammed on set today, Pete and I feel your pain”.

It also includes a November 2010 instant chat message exchange between CBA’s Garfield Lee and Craig Sloane of Westpac, in which Mr Sloane says, “you’ve been touching up BBSW again".

Mr Lee replies: “there is nothing like jamming a rateset against yourself.” Mr Lee no longer works at the bank.

Many of the conversations included by ASIC appear to be from before the statute of limitations, but the regulator may argue these demonstrate a pattern of behaviour within the bank that is relevant to the case.

CBA has said it disputes the allegations made by ASIC. The regulator has also taken action against Westpac, National Australia Bank and ANZ Bank over misconduct in the BBSW market.

ANZ and NAB both settled with ASIC last year, handing over about $50 million each, while Westpac fought the case in a high-profile trial that saw senior bankers and traders including Colin ‘The Rat’ Roden give evidence.

In another exchange listed in ASIC’s case against the CBA, Mr Lee tells Mr Roden that he is waiting for some “BBSW fireworks”.

Mr Roden responds saying: “yet steal ideas/women/whatevr...have a look at yourself and leave the funny stuff to the pro's !...bbsw...thats a bloody dangerous gane...need full flack jacket stuff.

Mr Lee replies to Mr Roden over Bloomberg chat saying: “you say that with the innocence of pol pot in 1980”.